MLS Explained

MLS Explained

What Is the MLS? The Multiple Listing Service, Explained

ByCathie Ericson|Aug 2, 2016

Whether you're looking tosellorbuy a home,you will no doubt encounter themultiple listing service, or MLS. This is, in many ways, the very lifeblood of the real estate business. But just what is the MLS? Sure, it's a huge database of homelistings,but there's a lot more to it than just that. Let's jump in!

History of the MLS

Yes, the MLS seems like an invention of the modern age. But, in fact, the term “multiple listing”—and the overarching concept behind it—was first coined in 1907. Back then it described the old-timey practice in whichreal estate agentswould gather regularly at offices or conferences to trade info about homesthey were trying to sell, hoping thisnetwork couldhelp connect them with buyers. In 1908,theNational Association of Real Estate Exchanges (the organization that later became the National Association of Realtors®)endorsed the use of this systemby all agents. It quickly caught on from there, evolving, stage by stage, into the modern system in use today—online and fully searchable byprice,neighborhood, and home features.

While the MLS may look like one large national database, it's actually a suiteof approximately 700 regional databases. And they're quite territorial:Each regional MLS has its own listings, and agentspay dues to access and post homes on each one.This is whyagents who want abroader reach for their clients may become a member of more than one MLS.

There is a growing trend in whichregional databases"share" listings without agents needing to become members ofeach,butthat's still more the exception than the rule. In general, only one MLS has the keys, both figuratively and literally, to any one home.

While numerous websites aggregate homelistings through highly condensed versions of MLS listings,realtor.com®is by far the most comprehensive, with99%of all MLS-listed "for sale" properties in the U.S. (Andto further tootour own horn: Our listings are also the most accurate and up to date. Over 90% of "For Sale" listings are refreshedat least every 15 minutes, which can come in handy in a fast-paced housingmarket, where every second can count. OK, we're done!)

How the MLSworks

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Home sellers can't post their home directly to the MLS,because access to this database is limited to licensed agents and brokers who pay for membership.Once they have a client selling a home, they gather the necessary details such as the square footage, number of bedrooms, and other noteworthy attributes—as well as photos—then post a complete (and hopefully eye-catching) listingon their client's behalf.

When agents log in, they have access to a wealth of data that they can pass along to their clients—or just help them do their business better and more strategically.And much of this goes far beyond whether a particular listing's driveway is made up of gravel or asphalt.

"Agents are able to upload and download documents on the MLS, such asseller disclosuresandHOA regulations,"notesFlorida Realtor®Cara Ameer. So even if you don't see the info you want on realtor.com, be sure to ask your agent, who may be able to deliver what you need with the click of a mouse.

Alternatives to the MLS

Home sellers who don't want to pay a real estate agent's commission can also listtheir home on aFor Sale By Owner, or FSBO, site rather than the MLS.But do so with your eyes wide open: Selling a home on your own is far fromeasy, and FSBO homes sell for less money—on average $39,000 less. This may explain why only8% of homessold every year are FSBO, and the vast majority go through the MLS.

There are also a few high-profile markets—namely New York City and Seattle—where the MLS is not the only way to list a home with an agent. In these areas, large real estate brokerages such as Sotheby's and Douglas Elliman use their own proprietary databases to listhomes rather than syndicating them on theMLS.So in these markets, you may want to check directly withthese brokers' sites in addition to the usualavenues if you want to make sure that all your house hunting bases are covered.

What is a pocket listing?

Sometimes high-profile sellers working withan agent will choose not to list their home on the MLS, for privacy reasons such as to avoid publicity or looky-loos.A property that is not entered into the MLS is often called a “pocket listing,” as in, “hidden in an agent’s pocket.” That means that only those potential buyers with whom an agent works directly will be aware the home is on the market.

Typically celebrities or other high-profile people may try this route; but if you're just a regular Joe who wants to get the word out that you're selling, the MLS will get you the most eyeballs—and top dollar—for your home.


Kelly Lawson Headshot
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Phone: 936-525-9589
Dated: August 1st 2017
Views: 92
About Kelly: My passion is to get you home. It’s that simple. The process is not always that simple, but it’s...

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